When wife leaves, you're free to be . . . miserable

September 11, 1994|By ROGER SIMON 44TC

My wife left me two weeks ago and even though I had seen it coming, it still rocked me.

I went from room to room in our house looking for someone who I knew would not be there.

What did I expect? That she would jump out of a closet and laugh and hug me and tell me it had all been a joke?

Yeah, that's what I expected.

That's what I wanted.

But nobody was there.

The bedroom was the hardest.

There was still a faint depression on her side of the bed. But when I put my hand there, it was cold.

Cold and empty. Like how I felt.

I picked up her pillow and crushed it to my face and stood there for a long time.

Then, eventually, it dawned on me: I was alone, but I was also free.

And how long had it been since I last was?

We had been college sweethearts, meeting on the school paper. She was the campus editor and I was the columnist. Together we had covered the riots and marches and protests of the '60s.

Let some marriages have the smell of orange blossoms; we would always have the tang of tear gas.

I went to my desk and took out the notebook in which I have jotted down quotations over the years. The one I was looking for was near the front, from when I was still single.

"Se tu sarai solo, tu sarai tutto tuo," Leonardo da Vinci had once written. If you are alone, you are your own man.

And that is what I now would be.

I would go where I pleased.

I would stay out as late as I wanted.

I would leave the seat up.

I was alone. I was free.

I was doomed.

But who said I had to stay alone?

I knew women, lots of women. Before, they had known me as a married man. Now, they would know me as available.

I rummaged through the desk for the scraps of paper that serve as my address book. I made a list.

First was a woman I had known for years, a woman who always referred to me as the one who got away.

A woman who, every time she saw me, undressed me with her eyes.

I dialed her number.

L Hi, it's me and my wife has left me, I gushed in one breath.

"I saw this day coming," she said.

She had? So why hadn't she let me in on it?

"And I think it's about time," she went on.

"I would have left you years ago."

So maybe she hadn't been undressing me with her eyes after all. Maybe she had astigmatism.

I called the next name, a woman who had recently divorced. Her husband already was dating and she was not, which drove her crazy.

"How could any woman in her right mind like a slob like that?" she had asked me not long ago.

You liked him once, I said.

"I never liked him," she said. "I married him. There's a difference."

So I figured she would be perfect.

"You need to get back in circulation," she said as soon as I gave her my news. "Don't wait. Just plunge in."

I was thinking, I told her, well, like you're alone and now I'm alone, and, well, maybe the two of us could . . .

"That's a joke, right?" she said. "You are joking?"

Absolutely, I said. You know me, always the kidder.

"Whew," she said, "for a second you had me worried. I thought you were serious." Then she began laughing.

Things were not going quite as I had planned.

The next name was a good friend of my wife. But if a friend won't betray you, who will?

"Are you really calling women and telling them your wife has left you?" she asked me.

I thought it would be a good opening line, I said.

"But it's a lie!" she said. "She hasn't left you. She's gone away for a month on a fellowship!"

Same thing, I said. She's not here.

"She is coming back in 30 days!" she said. "It's not the same thing!"

It feels the same, I said.

There was one last name on the list. A name I had been saving. A name that made my heart pound and my blood race.

She picked up the phone on the first ring.

I miss you, I said.

"I know," my wife said.

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